Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) has been forced to abandon the Tour de France following a crash in the final kilometres of stage 4. Benoot suffered a second-degree dislocation to his shoulder, as well as further cuts and bruises to his face, ribs and back.
The Belgian was able to complete the stage but had blood streaming down his face and went straight to the on-sight medical truck where he received a number of stitches to his face. Speaking in a video published on Lotto Soudal’s Facebook page, Benoot said that it wouldn’t be safe for him to continue to race.
"I think it would be irresponsible to continue the Tour,” said Benoot. “Of course, the Tour is a race where you want to continue as long as possible, but I don’t think I could hold my handlebars in a safe way. It is even difficult to put on my shirt so it would be hard to race more than 200 kilometres today on the highest level in the Tour.
“I will undergo further examinations at home in Belgium in order to exclude other fractures. Then we need to evaluate daily with the doctor and see when I will be able to train again.”
The crash came in the final five kilometres of the race as the bunch was chasing down the day’s break. A rider came down close to the front of the bunch and it sparked a chain reaction as more riders hit the tarmac. General classification riders Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) were caught up in the incident while AG2R La Mondiale’s Axel Domont came down heavily and fractured his collarbone.
“I haven’t seen the footage myself but a rider from Movistar, most likely Quintana, had to pull his breaks in front of me and I wasn’t able to avoid him. I think that I was the first rider to crash,” he explained.
“First, there was a big impact on my head. I also have some stitches at the back of my head. After that, when I tried to sit up straight, I couldn’t lean on my shoulder.”
Benoot had been playing the team game in the opening days as he looked to set-up teammate Andre Greipel in the sprint stages. However, the race was moving onto his more favoured terrain over the coming days with Wednesday’s stage to Quimper and Thursday’s effort to the Mur de Bretagne.
“Of course, the Tour still needed to start for me,” said Benoot. “I also saw that Andre is coming closer to a stage victory. Things were going in the right direction, and today was, together with tomorrow’s stage, the first stage I personally had targeted. After the spring Classics, everything I did was for the Tour. So, it’s very regrettable that it will end here.
“The most important thing is to recover quickly and then we will see where I will start racing again.”